by Pastor Mark Hudson
From 25:28, Waltke sees this section as perverted types of humanity
26:1-12 the fool
26:13-16 the sluggard
26:17-28 Four kinds of troublemakers
26:17 The busybody
26:18-19 The mischief maker
26:20-22 The slanderer
26:23-28 The hateful enemy
As I read through this chapter, I found myself wondering who this chapter is describing. Of course, we know all these characteristics describe a fool. But sometimes, I found that at times, people in the church act or speak this way. Other times, I saw unbelievers who speak this way. Painfully, I saw myself speaking or acting this way. So, it can be confusing since they apply, at times, to a wide variety of people.
This is a good reminder for us as we read Proverbs. Yes, these behaviors and speech patterns describe a fool but that fool lives inside of us. As we learn to place our faith in Christ and lean on Him, we grow in holiness. But we must learn every year what that means. On one hand, faith in Christ is a once-for-all-never-to-be-repeated act. On the other hand, we must learn what genuine faith is over and over.
So, as you read these descriptions of foolish behavior, first call out the sin in your own life. You can do that by recognizing you still are a believer. As you condemn the sin in your life, recognizing self-deception and grow for that, you will be better equipped to wisely and lovingly help others. As Paul writes about his own life, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Let us notice the first three troublemakers listed in vs. 17-28. First is the one we might call a busybody. This is a person who gets involved in a quarrel that does not involve her. She likes quarrels and likes to hear when and why people are upset. If you are asked to mediate or help, that is a different scenario. This is like someone who grabs a wild dog by the ears. Imagine what that dog will do. So, this describes a person who enjoys strife, disagreement, and wrong. In our culture, they leave the school, their job, or their church in shambles and start it all over again in the next place.
Next, in v. 18-19, is a person who schemes, plans, and has a ready answer if they get caught. This is not a child who doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions but a person who compared to a madman who is playing with fire. This mischief maker is like someone who throws death. This is not someone throwing a soft, squishy ball at someone that doesn’t hurt. This is a person who can do real damage. This is a person who deceives or attempt to deceive his neighbor. “His (the mischief maker) problem is not intellectual but spiritual; he lacks kind affection. The madman is not culpable for his crime; the mischief maker is” (Waltke vol 2, p. 359).
Next is the slander. Do we really need an explanation of the harm this person can do? You may have been the victim or been involved with trying to help in cases where you know one or more slanderers. This person is antisocial who kindles strife (v. 21) like adding inflammatory material to a dying flame. This person harms the community and actively pursues this burning fire almost enjoying the turmoil. These are not just proverbs for some of us. This reminds us of broken relationships, lost jobs, moves from a church, a home, or all the above.
Verse 20 starts out with what happens when there is no slanderer or whisperer. If no one repeats slander, lies, or half-truths the quarrel cease just like a fire dies out if there is no fuel. It is just that simple. This is a good reminder to you when you hear “whispers.” We will discuss the person who hears slander and their responsibility in v. 22.
Next is the combustible nature of a person who like a good fight between friends and enjoys in some perverse way tension that upsets families, churches, communities, and long-standing relationships. These folks, called a quarrelsome man” in v. 21, kindle strife. They set it blazing like adding dry wood to a fire almost out. Grab the bellows, add fuel, let’s get this fire to burn says the person who is finding fault with others, upsetting communities that are at peace with each other.
So much for the one who is speaking, what about the people who hear? It is all the fault of the one who spreads the strife, right? How could it spread if others don’t repeat these words? To some, “the words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels.” They eat them up the way you eat up your favorite food. They swallow them and “go down into the inner parts of the body” according to v. 22. So, I can be part of the problem even if I didn’t start the chain of slander. I need to learn to say things like, “Did you talk to this person first before talking to me?” or “If that is true, we need to talk to this person. I will go with you. Can you meet tomorrow night?” Because at this point, you do not know truth from error. The point it, we have a responsibility for what we hear and more to the point how we react to what we hear.
When we hear bad things about people are we happy about it (like delicious morsels) or are we grieved? Do we want to help the person slandered and assist the community or do we enjoy being “in the know” and can’t wait to let others know what we know (and they don’t)? You may be able to be involved in resolving the issue. You may be the person who will stop the whispering and arrange for the right people to get involved. You can learn how to best respond. In fact, you may not get it right the first few times. But you will. The other feature that is included when you do the right thing: people won’t come to you when they have those juicy tidbits.
Dear heavenly Father, we have made many mistakes saying things we regret and passing words on we never should have. This tongue is a “restless evil, full of deadly poison” as James says. Help us to never give up on being kinder with our tongue and learning how to respond better when we are confused upon hearing negative things. Thank you for the Bible that continually corrects us and shows us a better way to speak, listen, and live. Help us to not resolve to not only improve in our speech and actions but trust in the One who never sinned in what He said or how He responded. Equip us to accept correction, learn from our mistakes, and develop a deep dependence on Christ. In His glorious name. Amen.